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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

5 Warning Signs That A Project Is In Danger

From Georgina Laidlaw...
Here are the five warning signs that should have alerted me to the danger.
Warning Sign 1: Moving Away from the Agreed Plan
When I emailed my contact the copy his client had commissioned — a 30-second radio ad — and he had no amendments, I thought it was very odd. I’d included time for client amendments in my project estimate, which he’d approved. We’d also discussed the turnaround time for amendments, so we were both expecting that my ad copy wouldn’t be spot-on the first time.
When his only response to my submission of the draft ad was to ask me to send the invoice, I thought it was weird. Weirder still was that he emailed me this instruction: most of my clients will call to discuss draft copy. In an office, body language and behavior indicates clearly if a colleague is uncomfortable. But even email and phone conversations provide limited feedback.
What I should have done was called my contact immediately after I received his email to confirm that he and his client really had no amendments, and that both were happy to wrap the project up. But at the time I dismissed my unease, telling myself he was probably just busy.
Warning Sign 2: Unprecedented Behavior
No one I’ve ever worked with has accepted copy straight up, without amendments. Ever. So this should have been a huge red flag for me. If a person you’re working with does something you’ve never seen before — and their behavior affects you — check it out with them.
Before you do anything else, give them a call to get clarification about what’s going on. If their behavior has made you at all nervous or uneasy, let them know. By raising the topic, you give them the opportunity to talk about any issues they have — issues that, as in my contact’s case, they may otherwise be uncomfortable raising with you.
Warning Sign 3: Silence
A sudden silence can mean that your colleague has been called out of the office unexpectedly. Or it can mean that they have a problem that they don’t know how to discuss with you.
After I sent my 14-day invoice, I heard nothing from my client — not even an acknowledgment that he’d received it. Again, slightly uneasy, I reassured myself that he was probably busy. What I should have been doing was calling to follow up my invoice and make sure he’d received it.
As it turned out, when I called after the invoice due date and left a message, he didn’t respond. I emailed; no reply. When I called the following week, I was told he’d gone on leave for two weeks. When I was put through to Accounts, they told me there was a problem with the invoice and they’d been instructed not to pay it.
Warning Sign 4: Fast Talking
When I finally spoke to my contact, it was over the phone, and he told me that his client hadn’t liked the copy and they’d had to rewrite it. But he was going into a meeting and couldn’t talk now. He’d see that I “got paid at least part of the invoice,” and then he was gone.
By this time, I knew he wasn’t going to pay. I also knew he didn’t have a meeting. But there was still time to salvage things, had I wanted to. If this happened to me now, I’d ask to stop by the client’s office for ten minutes and discuss the problems with my work. Don’t let a client try to bamboozle you with fast talk or excuses — no matter how much they sugar-coat their story. Discussing the problems can also give you a chance to rectify the situation.
Warning Sign 5: General Unease
It won’t surprise you that all through this process I felt a general sense of unease — one that grew as matters progressed.
Now, whenever I get that feeling, I know I need to try to work out the cause of the discomfort. As my experience showed, it’s tempting to ignore your instincts and hope that things will go the way you’d like. No one likes to be uncomfortable, after all. But if you’re feeling it, you’re feeling it for a reason. Don’t ever ignore it!

Friday, February 12, 2010

7 Signs of Highly Effective Projects

  1. Stakeholders are committed. Linking a bonus plan or incentive compensation to a project’s results can significantly increase the commitment level of the project’s sponsors and stakeholders.
  2. Business benefits are realized.  Finance can help achieve this objective by tracking the project’s goals and the status of those goals as the project progresses. "You don’t want to be in a predicament where the good news is that we came in on budget, but the bad news is that the project doesn’t do what we want it to do," adds D’Andrea. Sometimes that means companies should pass on projects that don’t have a sound business case.
  3. Work and schedule are predicted.  Anyone can blow the whistle on past-due or over-budget projects. But finance managers who can predict early whether a project is headed for trouble give project managers the chance to get back on course. PricewaterhouseCoopers has developed a status report in which key factors receive a green (good), yellow (possible trouble) or red (trouble) mark each time the project is monitored. Project managers list concerns and recommend actions for any factor that receives a yellow or red mark. For example, if work and schedule receive a yellow mark, a project manager might note that the rate of change requests from end users has doubled since the last status report. The project manager might recommend that the project team identify the root cause of the increase in change requests: Is it due to new market conditions or end users’ failure to clearly define their needs?
  4. Scope is realistic and managed. Scope creep, the process through which a project mutates as functions are tacked on to the original plan, can destroy budgets. Finance managers should remind project managers of the financial impact associated with each additional piece of functionality they agree to implement once the project has begun.
  5. Team is high-performing. D’Andrea says that morale, trust, physical environment, reward and recognition contribute to the healthy performance of the project team. He also notes that project managers should minimize unplanned turnover from their project teams to maintain high levels of productivity.
  6. Risks are mitigated.  "If I were a CFO and somebody said, ‘We’re going to reinvent our business model by moving to the Web,’ I would want them to show me a feasibility test," says D’Andrea. "The best advice is: Don’t do something in a big way until you’ve seen it work in a small way."
  7. Project team benefits are realized. Project teams are trying to enhance their reputation, add to their knowledge and skill sets, and develop staff with each project. If these aims are identified and satisfied, D’Andrea notes, the outlook for a project’s success is greater.

Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

C++ On It's Way Out?


If you are a programmer than you probably know or at least know of C++. Well now a company called Digital Mars is developing the D programming lanugage.

"D is a systems programming language. Its focus is on combining the power and high performance of C and C++ with the programmer productivity of modern languages like Ruby and Python. Special attention is given to the needs of quality assurance, documentation, management, portability and reliability."
Basically this programming language is looking to combine the best of all there is out there using features from C, C++, C#, and Java as well as Python and Ruby as the quote mentions above. You can view a whole comparison of the different languages here:

Programming languages are good for different things; C++ because its fast, Ruby because its simple, Java because its easy to learn. You hear a lot of stuff like that. So I really like the idea of combining the best of all these languages because it just means it will lead to better programs and more people will be able to learn how to program.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Project Management Proverbs

compiled and some written by Mike Harding Roberts

  • It takes one woman nine months to have a baby. It cannot be done in one month by impregnating nine women (although it is more fun trying). *
  • The same work under the same conditions will be estimated differently by ten different estimators or by one estimator at ten different times.
  • Any project can be estimated accurately (once it's completed).
  • The most valuable and least used WORD in a project manager's vocabulary is "NO".
  • The most valuable and least used PHRASE in a project manager's vocabulary is "I don't know".
  • Nothing is impossible for the person who doesn't have to do it.
  • You can con a sucker into committing to an impossible deadline, but you cannot con him into meeting it.
  • At the heart of every large project is a small project trying to get out.
  • If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.
  • The more desperate the situation the more optimistic the situatee.
  • If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.
  • Too few people on a project can't solve the problems - too many create more problems than they solve.
  • A problem shared is a buck passed.
  • A change freeze is like the abominable snowman: it is a myth and would anyway melt when heat is applied.
  • A user will tell you anything you ask about, but nothing more.
  • A user is somebody who tells you what they want the day you give them what they asked for.
  • Right answers to wrong questions are just as wrong as wrong answers to right questions.
  • Of several possible interpretations of a communication, the least convenient is the correct one.
  • What you don't know hurts you.
  • The conditions attached to a promise are forgotten, only the promise is remembered.
  • There's never enough time to do it right first time but there's always enough time to go back and do it again.
  • I know that you believe that you understand what you think I said but I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant.
  • Estimators do it in groups - bottom up and top down.
  • Good estimators aren't modest: if it's huge they say so.
  • The sooner you begin coding the later you finish.
  • Anything that can be changed will be changed until there is no time left to change anything.
  • If project content is allowed to change freely the rate of change will exceed the rate of progress.
  • Change is inevitable - except from vending machines.
  • The person who says it will take the longest and cost the most is the only one with a clue how to do the job.
  • Difficult projects are easy, impossible projects are difficult, miracles are a little trickier.
  • If you don't plan, it doesn't work. If you do plan, it doesn't work either. Why plan!
  • The bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of meeting the date is forgotten.
  • If you're 6 months late on a milestone due next week but nevertheless really believe you can make it, you're a project manager.
  • A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on.
  • What is not on paper has not been said.
  • If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.
  • If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.
  • If you don't attack the risks, the risks will attack you.
  • A little risk management saves a lot of fan cleaning.
  • The sooner you get behind schedule, the more time you have to make it up.
  • A badly planned project will take three times longer than expected - a well planned project only twice as long as expected.
  • If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, you haven't understood the plan.
  • When all's said and done a lot more is said than done.
  • If at first you don't succeed, remove all evidence you ever tried.
  • Never put off until tomorrow what you can leave until the day after.
  • Feather and down are padding - changes and contingencies will be real events.
  • There are no good project managers - only lucky ones.
  • The more you plan the luckier you get.